Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water - it will make ripples throughout the entire pond. -- Jessy and Bryan Matteo
In my first entry in this two-part piece on generosity, I disclosed not a New Year's resolution, but a year-long goal: to share a meaningful part of myself and my time with others. This goal evolved as I took an inventory of just what it was that I could offer to enhance the lives of others: a combination of my time, my skills or my shoulder. The answer came to me as my guitar accidentally poked its case through a stack of items in my closet. I would engage my guitar as "musical medicine" for youngsters in hospitals, and the joy in that experience would enhance the lives for both giver and the receiver.
And what insights have I derived from this serendipitous encounter with my old pal, the guitar, and the hours of solace that it provided? Unbeknownst to me, the epiphany accompanying the appearance of my guitar as a jumpstart to my goal of generosity preceded Random Acts of Kindness Week from Feb. 9-15. Who knew? We all have an opportunity to volunteer our time, energy and resources; to find the positive in a challenging situation; to treat others with respect; to encourage others; and to listen to our friends and family; and to make the world a better place, no matter our age, residence or occupation. I've continued on my path of generosity and effected random acts of kindness every day and inspired others to practice kindness and pass it on.
After re-entering this giving "circle," I've rediscovered that giving is the most selfless thing you can do. I was the biggest benefactor of my generosity; I received a happiness boost! Generosity is transforming -- and reciprocating.
Seeing up close and personal how my efforts impact someone else, the more I gain from "giving." I enjoy a sense of fulfillment and feel a renewed sense of purpose and jolt of energy. The focus has shifted off myself. While it's important to maintain a healthy level of self-awareness and sensitivity for ourselves, sometimes our focus is filtered through a less-than positive lens -- self-doubt, criticism, stress -- none of which do any good for our level of confidence or success. By being generous, the sensitivity I feel towards others allows me to be more sensitive to myself and translates to valuing myself more.
I was living in the moment; I felt attuned and alive. I can see this state of being becoming contagious and spurring a domino effect of giving. Even my hairstylist said I "looked different, happy, generosity radiating through my hair!"
Reaching out to others has given me more gratitude and renewed my compassion, enabling me to live my life with more joy. I already notice how it's affecting my mind, body and emotions. My mood is lighter, and could it actually be that I feel a little healthier? My generosity meter has hit an all-time high. There is power in giving, and our well-being is connected to both. Enriching lives makes us wealthier.
Generosity begets generosity. Giving is better than receiving. It is in the giving that we receive. By lending ourselves for the well-being of others, we enhance our own mental, physical and emotional health. It's a great feeling to be of benefit to another human being. What a great reward, and nothing more fulfilling than knowing you've made a tangible difference in the lives of others.
We tend to go through life with a "me-me-me" mindset. In a world that's all about taking, it's important to stop and realize the importance of giving. It sounds trite, but we sometimes forget. When you make others happy, you also give yourself the gift of happiness. This musical experience is living proof. It brought me a level of joy I couldn't find in any other way. I made a deeply personal connection with people I wouldn't otherwise have encountered. In The Generosity Boomerang, author and marketing wizard Seth Godin states, "Here's conventional wisdom. Success makes you happy. Happiness permits you to be generous. In fact, it actually works like this: Generosity makes you happy. Happy people are more likely to be successful."
I continue to offer my own private demonstrations of goodwill. I've included this "giving" state in many areas of my personal and professional life, and it's a huge reward to see the direct impact of my kindness. In my business life in which I wear many hats in events management and production, I have redoubled my mentoring efforts; for many years I have counseled individuals interested in career options and am now more actively doing so. I'm not keeping score (even though I do have a competitive side); I'm just giving with a genuine heart because it makes me happy. When you make a difference in someone's life, you make a difference in your own. As the African proverb goes, "If you think you're too small to make a difference, you haven't spent a night with a mosquito!"
If you need a boost of well-being, happiness or self-esteem, be generous. Look at what you have to offer your corner of the world. Make generosity your M.O. Discover the joy of giving and do something good for someone else. Honestly, it works both ways.